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cyberBob35

Improving tracking and timing

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I'm a first year umpire and I finally got to do my first game last night.  It was an 11/12U rec game.  I felt like I didn't do a very good job tracking the pitches and my timing was too quick.  Overall, in my mind it felt like the game was moving really fast.  Towards the end I tried to focus and slow down, which I think it helped some.  Any advice for a newbie on how to improve tracking pitches and timing on calls?

 

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See the ball leave the pitcher's hand.  Here's the important part...see the catcher catch the ball.  How he/she catches the ball will help you call the pitch.  Decide in your mind what the call is and then communicate it.  SLOW DOWN!

 

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I have a couple that have really helped me.

1) As the pitcher starts to deliver the pitch, blow your breath out and keep it held out until the pitch is received by the catcher. This does a couple of things for you:
- It helps you keep steady
- It slows your brain down, helping you to concentrate
- Since you need to take a breath to call a ball or strike, it gives you one last chance to do the "mental replay" of the pitch

2) As the pitcher is starting to deliver his pitch (and again, I do this as I'm blowing my breath out), look at the ground a few feet in front of the pitcher's mound (this is where I adjust my head), and then look up (using eyes only) to track the ball in. This allows me to see the whole pitch moving only my eyes and not moving my head. That point on the ground lets me see both the release of the pitch and the entire strike zone all within the boundaries of the opening in the front of the mask, so I'm not moving my head, just my eyes.

3) Make sure you're forward enough to see the entire strike zone. If the catcher is in the way of the low-outside corner of the back of the strike zone, you're not forward enough. (And with 12U, sometimes this is a complete non-issue and the hard part is figuring out where exactly in the 8 feet between the catcher and the plate the strike zone is - that's a whole other discussion. ;))

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41 minutes ago, kylehutson said:

I have a couple that have really helped me.

1) As the pitcher starts to deliver the pitch, blow your breath out and keep it held out until the pitch is received by the catcher. This does a couple of things for you:
- It helps you keep steady
- It slows your brain down, helping you to concentrate
- Since you need to take a breath to call a ball or strike, it gives you one last chance to do the "mental replay" of the pitch

2) As the pitcher is starting to deliver his pitch (and again, I do this as I'm blowing my breath out), look at the ground a few feet in front of the pitcher's mound (this is where I adjust my head), and then look up (using eyes only) to track the ball in. This allows me to see the whole pitch moving only my eyes and not moving my head. That point on the ground lets me see both the release of the pitch and the entire strike zone all within the boundaries of the opening in the front of the mask, so I'm not moving my head, just my eyes.

3) Make sure you're forward enough to see the entire strike zone. If the catcher is in the way of the low-outside corner of the back of the strike zone, you're not forward enough. (And with 12U, sometimes this is a complete non-issue and the hard part is figuring out where exactly in the 8 feet between the catcher and the plate the strike zone is - that's a whole other discussion. ;))

Thanks for the breathing suggestions.  I think that would help me slow down and be more steady.

Actually, for 11/12u the catchers did a good job of getting close to the plate.  It took me a while to find the slot position where I felt like I could see the outside of the plate.  Looking back, I think I need to get closer to the catcher as well.

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10 hours ago, kylehutson said:

1) As the pitcher starts to deliver the pitch, blow your breath out and keep it held out until the pitch is received by the catcher. This does a couple of things for you:
- It helps you keep steady
- It slows your brain down, helping you to concentrate
- Since you need to take a breath to call a ball or strike, it gives you one last chance to do the "mental replay" of the pitch

2) As the pitcher is starting to deliver his pitch (and again, I do this as I'm blowing my breath out), look at the ground a few feet in front of the pitcher's mound (this is where I adjust my head), and then look up (using eyes only) to track the ball in. This allows me to see the whole pitch moving only my eyes and not moving my head. That point on the ground lets me see both the release of the pitch and the entire strike zone all within the boundaries of the opening in the front of the mask, so I'm not moving my head, just my eyes.

Great stuff right here. The exhale on the pitch is huge. Helps tracking and timing....Can't make the call until you inhale. That's when you replay the pitch.

The spot I pick is in front of the plate, around the dirt/grass line of the dirt circle. A little towards F4 for a RHB, and a little towards SS for a LHB. Move your eyes up to see the release, track with you eyes only, and when the ball reaches the plate, your eyes are in their relaxed position.

 

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10 hours ago, cyberBob35 said:

Thanks for the breathing suggestions.  I think that would help me slow down and be more steady.

Actually, for 11/12u the catchers did a good job of getting close to the plate.  It took me a while to find the slot position where I felt like I could see the outside of the plate.  Looking back, I think I need to get closer to the catcher as well.

It's going to take a long time to figure all this out. You'll have to try lots of different positions behind the catcher to find what best works for you, so don't sweat it because we all have to go through this learning curve... which can take many seasons. Be patient and give yourself a lot of slack, even if it seems like others aren't.

There are some really good suggestions here, so play around with them and try something new until you get it. And whatever you do, KEEP AT IT!! It's tough sometimes to not feel discouraged, but we all have good games and bad games, no matter how experienced we are. This is a good group to lean on, so you're in the right place!

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13 hours ago, cyberBob35 said:

I'm a first year umpire and I finally got to do my first game last night.  It was an 11/12U rec game.  I felt like I didn't do a very good job tracking the pitches and my timing was too quick.  Overall, in my mind it felt like the game was moving really fast.  Towards the end I tried to focus and slow down, which I think it helped some.  Any advice for a newbie on how to improve tracking pitches and timing on calls?

 

If I feel I’m getting quick, or not tracking all the way, I will tell myself before every pitch “watch the catcher catch the ball.” In others words, watch it all the way in, have him catch it, and then figure out what you have. It helps prevent gross misses, and helps slow timing. Newer umpires want to call a pitch in their head while it’s still 10-15 feet from home plate. Don’t even call it in your head until it hits his mitt. Then call it in your head, then verbalize and signal.

Also, really reset after each pitch. Step back a step or two, look around, take a breath, tell yourself to watch the catcher catch the ball, and get back behind the catcher ready to go. 

You’ll get better game over game. Stick with it and try to improve little by little.

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13 hours ago, cyberBob35 said:

I'm a first year umpire and I finally got to do my first game last night.  It was an 11/12U rec game.  I felt like I didn't do a very good job tracking the pitches and my timing was too quick.  Overall, in my mind it felt like the game was moving really fast.  Towards the end I tried to focus and slow down, which I think it helped some.  Any advice for a newbie on how to improve tracking pitches and timing on calls?

 

That sounds exactly like a first game to me.  Good news--you're not behind the curve!  And you're asking for advice, looking to get better.  

Implement the good advice you're getting, and have the patience to let it take root in actual game situations.   Your fifth game will be better than your first, and your fiftieth game will be better than your tenth. 

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On 3/30/2018 at 7:47 PM, ElkOil said:

It's going to take a long time to figure all this out. You'll have to try lots of different positions behind the catcher to find what best works for you, so don't sweat it because we all have to go through this learning curve... which can take many seasons. Be patient and give yourself a lot of slack, even if it seems like others aren't.

There are some really good suggestions here, so play around with them and try something new until you get it. And whatever you do, KEEP AT IT!! It's tough sometimes to not feel discouraged, but we all have good games and bad games, no matter how experienced we are. This is a good group to lean on, so you're in the right place!

Thanks for the feedback and the push to keep at it.  I was a little discouraged after the first game, and probably not as aggressive for signing up for the next game.  I felt like I didn't do well and no one would want me behind the plate for their game.  Fortunately, I had already signed up for several games and the next one is tomorrow night.  I'm going to focus on timing and try some of the suggestions on here.  I'm hoping it will help and I can get better each time out.  I know that will help my confidence.

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7 minutes ago, cyberBob35 said:

Thanks for the feedback and the push to keep at it.  I was a little discouraged after the first game, and probably not as aggressive for signing up for the next game.  I felt like I didn't do well and no one would want me behind the plate for their game.  Fortunately, I had already signed up for several games and the next one is tomorrow night.  I'm going to focus on timing and try some of the suggestions on here.  I'm hoping it will help and I can get better each time out.  I know that will help my confidence.

You're probably right -- you probably didn't do well. It's okay... none of us do very well when we're first starting out. That's all part of the gig and why we don't begin our careers calling high-level ball. You're going to stink up your share of games but that's exactly the way it should be because that's what's going to motivate you to improve. If you start out thinking you're some hot shot umpire, you're not going to strive to be better. So don't pressure yourself to be perfect or even good at this point. Focus on improving just one or two things every game. Maybe it's stance and timing the next time you're out. Maybe when you're on the bases next it's timing and positioning. Maybe mechanics. Maybe there's rules you want to brush up on. No matter what it is, pick two and work them until you feel confident enough to pick two others and then work those.

Take as many games as you possibly can because getting better requires repetition. And having the interest to be active on this forum shows you're interested in learning. 

Before you know it, your confidence will increase and you'll see how much better you are than you were last month, or last season. It can take years to work your way up, so stay with it. It's worth the work!

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On 3/30/2018 at 9:08 AM, cyberBob35 said:

I'm a first year umpire and I finally got to do my first game last night.  It was an 11/12U rec game.  I felt like I didn't do a very good job tracking the pitches and my timing was too quick.  Overall, in my mind it felt like the game was moving really fast.  Towards the end I tried to focus and slow down, which I think it helped some.  Any advice for a newbie on how to improve tracking pitches and timing on calls?

 

No worries. Try to see the pitch into the catcher's glove, watch what the catcher does with the pitch (does he pull it, turn his glove, drop the pitch). If none of the above happened, and the pitch is in (or passed through) the strike zone, you can call the pitch a strike. If one of those happen, you can call a ball, if the pitch was close. Watching what the catcher does will slow down your timing, and enable you to process the pitch better. 

If you say "Ball (#)" or "Strike (#)" on every pitch that you call, you will develop consistent timing. Using numbers to call pitches is optional, but can help you remember the count, and is the accepted practice in professional umpire school (and the lower levels of Minor League Baseball). 

Good luck this season!

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So, as for helping with tracking when not on the ballfield. Give this a try.

If you have white socks. Or something soft and white that you can make a ball shape out of. Heck a piece or two of crumpled upnpaper works just as well.

Lay down on your bed or the floor. Take the white "ball" and toss it straight up in the air right in front of your face. Track it with just your eyes as it goes up and comes back down.

The nice thing about them being soft is that if you miss it and it hits you in the face. It won't hurt.

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On 3/30/2018 at 6:22 AM, johnpatrick said:

See the ball leave the pitcher's hand.  Here's the important part...see the catcher catch the ball.  How he/she catches the ball will help you call the pitch.  Decide in your mind what the call is and then communicate it.  SLOW DOWN!

 

Let the catcher finish catching the ball.

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On 4/1/2018 at 7:21 PM, cyberBob35 said:

Thanks for the feedback and the push to keep at it.  I was a little discouraged after the first game, and probably not as aggressive for signing up for the next game.  I felt like I didn't do well and no one would want me behind the plate for their game.  Fortunately, I had already signed up for several games and the next one is tomorrow night.  I'm going to focus on timing and try some of the suggestions on here.  I'm hoping it will help and I can get better each time out.  I know that will help my confidence.

DON"T LISTEN TO THE BLEACHER UMPIRES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!    They will discourage you.  Take every plate game you can get so you can work on your game.  It's going to make you better as a plate umpire and a base umpire.  Why a base umpire?  Because the timing you develop on the plate can help with your timing on the bases.  And, if you get to work with some good umpires, you'll be able to see how their timing and their positioning is.  DON"T LISTEN TO THE BLEACHER UMPIRES!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You're going to be a good umpire.  Asking questions is a very very good start.  

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On 4/1/2018 at 7:40 PM, ElkOil said:

You're probably right -- you probably didn't do well. It's okay... none of us do very well when we're first starting out. That's all part of the gig and why we don't begin our careers calling high-level ball. You're going to stink up your share of games but that's exactly the way it should be because that's what's going to motivate you to improve. If you start out thinking you're some hot shot umpire, you're not going to strive to be better. So don't pressure yourself to be perfect or even good at this point. Focus on improving just one or two things every game. Maybe it's stance and timing the next time you're out. Maybe when you're on the bases next it's timing and positioning. Maybe mechanics. Maybe there's rules you want to brush up on. No matter what it is, pick two and work them until you feel confident enough to pick two others and then work those.

Take as many games as you possibly can because getting better requires repetition. And having the interest to be active on this forum shows you're interested in learning. 

Before you know it, your confidence will increase and you'll see how much better you are than you were last month, or last season. It can take years to work your way up, so stay with it. It's worth the work!

You're not going to strive to get better is one thing that pisses me off to no end.  They guys who think they know everything and don't try to learn something every game is the guy I hate working with.  Also, don't invite coaches to come out and argue when you're holding the pre-game plate meetings.

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